CW: Poverty, Homelessness, & Assisted Suicide:
According to a 2015 article published by NPR, those with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty than their non-disabled counterparts. It can be challenging for those who are disabled to find affordable and accessible housing. Unsurprisingly, disabled people account for 38.6% of sheltered homeless people in America, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.
Homeless people do not have long-term access to housing and must rely on emergency shelters, transitional housing, or facilities not designed for extended stays. On a single night in January 2018, 552,830 people were homeless in the United States. Between 2.5 and 3.5 million people experience homelessness in any given year.
In January 2017, 24% of people experiencing homelessness, or about 87,000 people, had a disability and were chronically homeless. Individuals experiencing chronic homelessness have been homeless for at least a year or have had at least four periods of homelessness, totaling twelve months in the previous three years.
For disabled people, finding a place to live is a challenge. Globally, there is not enough accessible housing. For example, Only 9% of homes in the United Kingdom have the essential features – a level access entrance, a flush threshold, spacious doorways, and a toilet at the entrance level – to be considered “visitable.” In Canada, some people are so desperate for housing that they turn to assisted suicide.
A 54-year-old man from St. Catharines, Ontario, is in the process of asking for medical aid in dying (MAiD), not because he wants to die, but because his social supports are failing him, and he fears he will have no other option. Amir Farsoud sustained a back injury many years ago that left him in excruciating pain.
Farsoud currently lives in a rooming house with two other people that is up for sale. He receives disability benefits and says he cannot afford to live elsewhere. Farsoud receives little more than $1,200 per month in ODSP, and after paying $690 per month in rent and bills, he has around $7.00 per day for food. He eats beans the majority of the time. He says that, as a result, he cannot pay more rent. There is a seven-year waiting list for affordable housing where Farsoud lives.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of accessible housing in the United States. Margaret Davis has been unable to find an affordable apartment. The 55-year-old receives about $750 from the federal government each month. Because Davis is trying to save money for a place to live, she is making an effort to live on $50 in cash and $150 in SNAP benefits each month.
Davis is homeless despite receiving SSI. According to Zumper, which has been tracking rental prices since 2014, the average apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Davis lives, now rents for $1,500 per month. Rent is 70% higher than it was over a decade ago.
Some disabled Americans receive disabilty benefits, and can qualify for Section 8. However, this can be a lengthy process. Even though it has been more a year, Justin Smith, who lives in Minnesota, has yet to get a housing voucher for his accessible apartment. Unfortunately, Justin’s situation is all too common. Justin says that he would be unable to live independently without the assistance of his parents.
According to a CBPP examination of HUD statistics, only two of the 50 largest housing agencies had average wait durations of less than a year for families who have made it off the waiting list; the longest have wait times of up to eight years. Nationally, families waiting for vouchers have been on waitlists for more than 2.5 years on average.
In February 2020, Apartment List conducted a study using data from the American Community Survey and the American Housing Survey. The study found that only 9% of households with a disabled member live in an accessible home. Only 6% of homes in the United States are accessible, even though more than 15% of households include a physically disabled member.
Because of my Cerebral Palsy, finding accessible housing has been difficult for me. In August 2020, I moved out of my parent’s home. I live in a rural part of Massachusetts where housing options are usually limited and expensive. I was fortunate to find a first-floor apartment through an old acquaintance. While it is not entirely accessible, it works just fine for the time being. I had a ramp installed, and I shower using a bath transfer system. I don’t have carpets, which makes it easier for me to move around, and I can move freely in my power wheelchair and walker. In the future, I hope to have a roll-in shower in my apartment.
Hopefully, by recognizing how difficult it is to find accessible housing, we can all work together to reduce housing barriers for people with disabilities. Nobody should have to live in poverty. Many disabled Americans like Margret Davis are staying in homeless shelters. We need to work together to ensure that all people with disabilities have access to affordable, accessible housing that is safe for them. Housing is an essential part of life, and nobody should struggle to find housing.
Acosta, Sonya, and Erik Gartland. “Families Wait Years for Housing Vouchers Due to Inadequate Funding.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 22 July 2021, https://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/families-wait-years-for-housing-vouchers-due-to-inadequate-funding.
Clasen-Kelly, Fred. “High Rents Outpace Federal Disability Payments, Leaving Many Homeless.” NPR, NPR, 15 Sept. 2022, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2022/09/15/1121848289/social-security-disability-inflation-poverty.
Fessler, Pam. “Why Disability and Poverty Still Go Hand in Hand 25 Years After Landmark Law.” NPR, NPR, 23 July 2015, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/07/23/424990474/why-disability-and-poverty-still-go-hand-in-hand-25-years-after-landmark-law.
“Homelessness in America: Overview of Data and Causes.” The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 2018, https://homelesslaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Homeless_Stats_Fact_Sheet.pdf.
Mulligan, Cynthia, and Meredith Bond. “Ontario Man Applying for Medically-Assisted Death as Alternative to Being Homeless.” CityNews, Rogers Sports & Media, 13 Oct. 2022,
Smith, Justin. “Part 2: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Justin Smith Writes, WordPress, 19 Oct. 2022, https://justinsmithwrites.com/2022/10/19/part-2-mr-smith-goes-to-washington/.
Theil, Michele. “A Shortage of Accessible Housing Is Affecting Disabled People.” EachOther, EachOther, 23 Feb. 2022, https://eachother.org.uk/shortage-accessible-housing-disability-rights/.
Thomas , Erin Vinoski. “Homelessness among Individuals with Disabilities: Influential Factors and Scalable Solutions.” The National Association of County and City Health Officials, The National Association of County and City Health Officials, 14 June 2019, https://www.naccho.org/blog/articles/homelessness-among-individuals-with-disabilities-influential-factors-and-scalable-solutions.
Ward, Ashley. “The Right to Adequate Housing: Disabled Individuals in the United States: Immigration and Human Rights Law Review.” The Immigration & Human Rights Law Review, The University of Cincinnati, 21 Jan. 2022, https://lawblogs.uc.edu/ihrlr/2022/01/21/the-right-to-adequate-housing-disabled-individuals-in-the-united-states/#post-339-footnote-55.
Warnock, Rob. “How Accessible Is the Housing Market?” Apartment List , Apartment List, 19 February, 2020, http://www.apartmentlist.com/research/how-accessible-is-the-housing-market.
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